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December 05, 2006

Comments

Naaah, people believe IQ tests measure brains. Look at all the jokes about Bush's. Employers don't use IQ tests because they don't just care about brains, but about leadership and all the other garbage they use for college.

Doing college work, particularly undergraduate college work, is a lot like real world work in white collar jobs:

Taking orders and following them in turning out paper work.

Well, yes, college does give information about taking orders and following them and turning out paper work. But so does a high-school transcript.

If I were hiring high school students I would ask to see their transcripts. Would that be legal?

I suppose you could argue that some high-schools are too easy.

I think it is pretty apparent that high school diplomas have become relatively meaningless in the wake of political monkeying with the requirements.

And standardized tests are reduced to political posturing too. They've even managed to get verbal analogies removed from the SAT's as of last year.

"Of course, the standards are rather murky, lacking in enough court cases to truly know what's a "necessity," but there is little desire by employers to push the envelope, not just for fear of litigation, but because they don't believe in IQ tests."

I agree with the first part, that companies are wary of using IQ tests because they're unsure of exactly what the legal outcome would be. This uncertainty introduces an element of legal risk that they'd prefer to avoid. You never know what's going to happen once you go to court, particularly with anything that bears the taint of racial or gender discrimination. Also, just being taken to court on such an issue is very bad PR.

I disagree with the second point, that employers - generally speaking - don't believe in IQ tests. I would guess that viritually every decent-sized company employs psychologists, psychometricans, and other consultants to advise them on their recruiting strategies, pay scales, desired employee profiles, and the like. If these consultants are worth even a fraction of what they're paid, I suspect they are aware of the relationhips between IQ and performance for all sorts of different jobs. I'd guess most companies would love to have an IQ score for all interviewees.

"I would guess that viritually every decent-sized company employs psychologists, psychometricans, and other consultants to advise them on their recruiting strategies, pay scales, desired employee profiles, and the like."

That's so cute that you think the decision making people in companies know this stuff merely because the company is "decent sized." It's the politically correct people who get promoted, not the people who know the truth about IQ and job performance.

Obviously you never had to hire someone and deal with the HR department. They only thing they do is rewrite your employment ad copy so they no longer make any sense, and then publish the ad without telling you they changed it.

Microsoft and Google co use tests for hiring. If you look at their test, it is pure IQ style test. But they never say it is IQ test. Bill Gate is IQ believer.

"Microsoft and Google co use tests for hiring. If you look at their test, it is pure IQ style test. But they never say it is IQ test. Bill Gate is IQ believer."

This is true. Yet the comapnies haven't been sued. Thus proving my point that it's not some Supreme Court case stopping other employers from using tests, it's just that they don't believe in using tests because hardly anyone believes in tests.

I second SFG, I think employers just don't value brains in and of themselves in any of the jobs we'd care about. None of the leading cases involve jobs anyone would get a college degree to do (Griggs involved operations, maintenance, and coal-handling). Many employers would probably still like to use IQ tests to screen for the lower-level jobs. However, I don't know that there's any reason to think, for instance, that an investment banker with an IQ of 150 would be better than one with an IQ of 118.

My general impression is that people tend to believe that IQ can properly assess the worth of people whose IQs are lower than theirs, but not that of people whose are higher. People tend to think that IQs higher than their own aren't necessary.

I'm glad you find my comments "cute."

With all due respect HS, this approach is a bit beneath you. Condescension is not the same as effective counter-argument.

I have no problem with the fact that we disagree on this point. The "clash of ideas" if you will, is one of the attractions here. Your latest comment, however, doesn't really rise to that level.

I'm not, and don't claim to be, an expert on this issue, or anything else discussed in this forum. However, I have worked in places where psychometricians and other employment consultants were used, I have seen their strategies and recommendations, I have been (and am now) involved in the recruiting process. This doesn't make me "an expert," but it doesn't leave me entirely ignorant on this question, either.

I'd be interested to know if I am the only one who has worked for a company or institution employing such consultants to organize the the recruiting and hiring process, and whether or not their input ever touched upon matters of intelligence, regardless of the fact that no IQ tests were to be administered to interviewees.

Microsoft and Google co use tests for hiring. If you look at their test, it is pure IQ style test. But they never say it is IQ test. Bill Gate is IQ believer."

It's trivial to explain how the tests MSFT and Google use relate to programming ability. Although IQ correlates well with success in a lot of jobs, there's probably a test for each which would be more specific and therefore more appropriate. IANAL and IANAHRPerson, but I think what people are worried about is discrimination against those with lower IQs who are nevertheless just as capable of doing a given job. IQ doesn't measure personality traits which are crucial to success at certain jobs, such as extroversion, agreeableness, and conscientiousness. College degrees from top universities at least offer some proof of conscientiousness.

Thus proving my point that it's not some Supreme Court case stopping other employers from using tests, it's just that they don't believe in using tests because hardly anyone believes in tests.

There are several tests currently in use that assess personality, rather than intelligence. Their promoters claim they match personality types to job duties. Usually, people will hire an consultant to administer them to prospective hires, sometimes along with skill tests.

I think they're so much hooey myself, but many decisionmakers apparently disagree with me.

"IANAL"

I'm unfamiliar with this Internet abbreviation, but it sounds intriguing.

LOL. I Am Not A Lawyer.

I apologize, Fred, for being condescending. Nevertheless, you seem to be imagining that the managment of big companies have some sort of superior knowledge of scientific methods that the rest of society doesn't have. The managers get their high level positions not by being book nerds who know far more about psychometric research than the average person. They get there by being good at "leadership," and whatever leadership means it has nothing to do with having secret book knowldedge not possessed by the people they were promoted over.

There's no reason to think the director of HR at a Fortune 500 company thinks any differently than the HR people who I've dealt with at smaller companies. They are just better at getting themselves promoted. Maybe they are even smarter, but if they are it's doubtful they are using their higher IQs to harbor politically incorrect notions. Politically incorrect people are usually not the ones who get the promotions. Subverting your own views to those of the majority in order to fit in is a frame of mind that some have and some don't.

Bill Gates likes IQ tests, but that's his own quirky thing and not something that came from the establishment business and HR people he hired.

Microsoft and Google have both been extraordinarily successful, both have a philosophy of hiring the people who are good at taking tests... yet no one seems to notice the connection.

IQ tells just that you are intelligent or not. Having diploma tells also that you are not lazy and can archieve things.

A college degree tells a potential one of three things, intelligence only the middle one. In descending importance:

1) You have at least something or a work ethic: Graduating from college tells an employer that you generally showed up when you needed to show up, generally did what you were asked, and set out to do something and spent at least four years following through on it. For many jobs, this is the most important thing that a college degree signifies. An IQ test won't tell an employer this.

2) You have at least minimal intelligence: Some people are simply not smart enough to get a college degree. You are not one of those people.

3) You come from a family that knew to send you to college. More likely than not, you at least come from the middle class or from a lower class that aspires to the middle class. Either way, you presumably want some sort of future and are less likely to do those things that would stand in the way of such a future.

Someone can graduate from college without all three of these things, but you need at least some degree of all three, or an overabundance of at least one, in order to get a degree. Sitting next to a person without a degree, that gives you a natural leg up.

I disagree with the comments above, such as trumwill's, which suggest that graduating from college proves that you're conscientous.

Plenty of college students spend more time drinking beer than they do going to class or studying.

Graduating from college isn't any more difficult than graduating from high school or holding down a job, assuming you have a level of intelligence average for the college you're attending.

At the lower end of the scale, maybe some people who aren't really college material in the first place of to struggle a little in order to graduate. At the Ivy League level, graduating wasn't that difficult.

HS, no offense taken.

It seems that a lot of the comments on this topic presume that, if employers are at all interested in IQ, they're primarily looking for the highest possible scores. I think this often not the case. They're looking for someone who best fits their profile for that particular job. That might mean an IQ of 110.

Spungen says: "I don't know that there's any reason to think, for instance, that an investment banker with an IQ of 150 would be better than one with an IQ of 118."

If she's correct, maybe you don't WANT to hire the applicant with an IQ of 150. Maybe he gets bored too easily, maybe he's too outspoken, maybe he's socially inept, maybe he's too easily distracted, maybe he's too likely to upset the smooth order of things.

All of the following come from direct personal experience:

A friend of mine who used to manage car dealerships laughingly told me that he would never be stupid enough to hire anybody with the potential to wind up taking his job. I'm not saying he wanted to administer IQ tests, I'm just saying he wasn't looking for the brightest people he could find.


Two candidates for a position at a mediocre state university where I once worked. One had a PhD from Harvard, and the grad director there said he was one of their best, maybe THE best, student in the past decade. The other guy had a PhD from Cal State Northridge. The university shared with the Harvard guy their concern that he wouldn't be satisfied at their school. He insisted that he genuinely wanted the job, both for professional and personal reasons. The university decided he'd never be happy there, and gave the job to the guy from Northridge, who, 15 years later, is still there. So much for the invincibility of the Ivy League degree.

I worked in an international trade association with a guy who had a grad degree from the Kennedy School of Government who had most recently been a diplomat in Paris. It was not uncommon, as you passed his cubicle, to find him there snoring away blissfully. Both he and the employer eventually agreed that the job was "a bad fit." In other words, it was a boring job requiring someone with a high tolerance for boredom.

I'm not picking on Harvard, but it keeps cropping up. I know of a psychometrician/consultant who advised a client of my father's not to hire a young guy with an MBA from Harvard. The client saw somebody with such impecable credentials as a sure bet, but the consultant said, he won't be interested in the job, he'll think it's beneath him, etc. The client hired him anyway, and the predictions turned out to be prophetic. The guy was a total washout.

Most employers are not looking for a secretary (sorry, administrative assistant) with an IQ of 90. They're also not looking for a secretary with an IQ of 130. Think such a secretarial applicant couldn't exist? They exist. I know somebody who was turned down for a secretarial job in a university department of education, probably because she was smarter than most if not all of the faculty. OK, I'm guessing, but I know her, and I knew some of the people on the faculty.

I realize that none of these examples involve an IQ test per se, but they do reflect the importance of intelligence as a hiring factor, even if the employer isn't looking for extra-ordinarily high intelligence.

If you've been asked a weird, off-the-wall question during an interivew (I certainly have), it's probably not because the interviewer is belligerent or disturbed. It's a personality and intelligence indicator.

This is an amusing, though slightly off-topic, anecdote. I once met a managment consultant who described the interviews he'd been through. Just after getting his MBA, he got all spruced up in his best suit, and went for his 2:00 interview. He waited, and waited, and chatted with the secretary, and waited, and was told the interviewer was very busy, and waited. Around 3:30, he was called into the office.

The guy is very casual and chatty, and they talk about the company and they talk about the position and so forth, nothing really specific. Then the interviewer says, "Well, I've really enjoyed getting to know you, but you see, right now, we're really not hiring. We just posted the position because we like to keep our resume bank up to date."

The young guy, figuring he has nothing to lose, leans across the desk, waves his finger in the guy's face, and curses him out along the lines of, "you son of a bitch, you have the goddamn nerve to make me wait one and a half hours, then tell me you're not even really even looking. This is the most un-f*cking professional stunt I've ever seen . . . " Etc.

The company called him back a few days later and offered him the job.

Two candidates for a position at a mediocre state university where I once worked ...The other guy had a PhD from Cal State Northridge.

Fred, I bet this mediocre state university was another Cal State, right? So they had an incentive to help out their own.

I suspect the HR proffessors know it, but rarely teach it, to undergrads at least. As a friend taking HR classes told me, the field is all about making sure your company has enough minorities to escape lawsuits.

If HS is right, a company's use of IQ tests might not happen in a given industry until it's one of its rivals (probably an 'upstart') did.

And whether a smarter person is less fit for a job may not be as bad as it sounds - there may be a tradeoff between turnover and greater productivity. Perhaps the smarter would not have higher turnover anyway, for the given position. This is something that needs to be empirically determined.

FWIW, investment banks frequently request the SAT scores of applicants, if only to tremendously cut the number of applications. See http://www.careerjournal.com/recruiters/workingwith/20031030-dunham.html and http://www.thestreet.com/funds/managerstoolbox/1122099.html
The author linked in the latter makes this curious statement: "An MBA or law degree is required about 90% of the time if you want to advance beyond the level of senior associate in corporate finance. A higher degree is required about 50% of the time in sales and trading. These degrees are less certifications of ability than they are screens to limit the number of people seeking higher positions. " To slow the churn of social mobility?

And there is little evidence of a 'threshold value,' past which IQ matters little.

I know a few upper-level people at the firm Hyrian, a company that finds employees for large firms. I am very curious as to their methods, but, judging by my own application experience, they probably don't use IQ tests, as I was only subjected to a typing test (for speed and accuracy).

Sigma's right about this point. I think using scores is a geniune opportunity for a firm looking for a competative advantage.

Also, the trend is towards more focus on scores. Almost all of the elite colleges in the U.S. practice heavy-handed racial discrimination and when you throw in atheletes and legacy students, even elite college graduates are now like a box of chocolates -- you never know what you're going to get!

At Columbia Business School GMAT scores are more common on student resumes than GPA's and I've even seen employers requesting GMAT scores. That's something that NEVER happened 5 or 10 years ago.

-Mercy

In the medical fields where I work, the only thing that counts is passing a certification board that has a pass rate of less than 50% I have known of an individual who had a PhD who could not pass in three tries and people who had MS degrees from Wayne State, UT-San Antonio, and UMass-Lowell who passed on the first try.

I always felt that the PhD's from Berkley, Harvard, and Michigan were less likely to pass since they were usually to specialized and had problems going back and doing the broading studing that it takes to pass.

Also, some medical boards are still orals and thus have the effect of being harder for green card holders than native english speakers.

In a sales field, a more intelligent person will be a worse salesman (past a certain point, of course, you don't want total morons) and hence less productive.

I'd actually expect the I-banker IQ to be a bit higher given the pool they recruit from--perhaps 125 or so. But an I-banker with an IQ of 150 is pretty fucking worthless.

"In a sales field, a more intelligent person will be a worse salesman (past a certain point, of course, you don't want total morons) and hence less productive.

I'd actually expect the I-banker IQ to be a bit higher given the pool they recruit from--perhaps 125 or so. But an I-banker with an IQ of 150 is pretty fucking worthless."

Thank you, Omniscient One. Mere mortals such as I cannot read your mind, so would you care to give some evidence?

(Not to say that some traits perhaps unfairly associated with intelligence are bad for sales - just that all else equal, IQ is probably helpful. And nowhere near all banking jobs are sales positions.)

Like I mentioned before, Bill Gates is strong believer of IQ. So he predicted future belong to China because he dismiss myth of East Asian's lack of creativity.

Former prime mister of Singapore, Lee Kwan Yew, is also believer of IQ for every thing including efficient Govenment. He was willing to pay higher salary to lure high IQ type people into his govement. In his book `From third world to first world', he believes smart people make effective govenment. As we know, Singapore has the most effecient, and least corrupted govenment with a lot of social engineering. He setted up policy to promote birth rate for high IQ type people. That is Eugenics by govenment action.

Certainly Eugenics god father Galton also had strong hope for China.

http://galton.org/letters/africa-for-chinese/AfricaForTheChinese.htm

"Thank you, Omniscient One. Mere mortals such as I cannot read your mind, so would you care to give some evidence?"

OK, maybe I overshot. I'm just referring to all of HS's findings and all the many discussions all this time we keep having about how Being Smart is Bad For You because it Decreases Your Social Skills. If you're smart and dodge the curse, you can probably do pretty well for yourself.

I don't think smarts would necessarily be worse for sales. As long as you have the social skills. Look at Bill Clinton.

If these consultants are worth even a fraction of what they're paid, I suspect they are aware of the relationhips between IQ and performance for all sorts of different jobs....I have seen their strategies and recommendations

So, was IQ one of the strategies you saw?


he would never be stupid enough to hire anybody with the potential to wind up taking his job
I wonder how important agency problems are here? If you own the business, you do want to hire people good enough to take your job.

Some possible factors that many are missing

1) Have you considered that hiring higher IQ types even with the risk that they will leave (turnover) more often would still be beneficial to the company.. especially if it was a) a large company b)a recent graduate/new guy to the job market and c) if sometime in the future the economy de-emphasized the degree?

Reason - Even if the applicant didnt stay at that particular job he could move to another department in that company where his IQ will be better challenged, and thereby be a productive asset to the company. Rather like cigarette or Cola brands, you tend to stick with the one you used first - perhaps applicants are likely to always consider their first company even if other offers from other companies are (only marginally) better.

2) Herrnstein and Murray mentioned in "The Bell Curve" that there isnt any evidence of diminishing returns for IQ, though tbh maybe the research doesnt cover all bands of the IQ spectrum equally.

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